India needs a brief but extensive lockdown to break the chain of coronavirus transmission and allow the medical community to recover, according to the national president of the Indian Medical Association.
The South Asian nation is in the midst of a catastrophic second wave of Covid infections. Cases increased in February and, in the months that followed, large crowds gathered for religious festivals and political gatherings in different parts of the country, mostly without a mask.
There is also growing concern about new strains of the virus that are potentially more contagious.
On Friday, India reported 332,730 new cases of infection within 24 hours, according to the government. For the second year in a row, India reported the world’s highest increase in infections in one day.
“Almost all of our hospital beds are full. But I still believe the infrastructure is good enough to meet people’s needs,” JA Jayalal told CNBC’s Capital Connection on Friday. The Indian Medical Association is one of the largest professional associations in the country representing physicians.
Do you need an “extensive blocking”
While some states have tightened social restrictions, including night curfews, others have been partially banned.
“But that’s not good enough,” said Jayalal. “We must be fully locked down for at least two weeks so that hospitals and the medical community can regain, re-emphasize and re-equip our hospital infrastructure to deal with the crisis.”
During the first wave of infections, India imposed a nationwide lockdown between late March and May. While it ultimately helped reduce the number of cases, the lockdown had a serious impact on India’s growth trajectory, leaving millions with no income or jobs.
We are in need of intense war-making activity by the government and health professionals right now
Indian Medical Association
With the economy still struggling to get back on track, experts have suggested the government may be reluctant to impose another national lockdown.
Jayalal said India’s health system is “at the breaking point” and if cases continue to rise rapidly over the next two weeks, the consequences could be “catastrophic.” So far, many cases have been concentrated in ten states, including Maharashtra, the epicenter of the second wave, he said.
“We are in the process of moving resources to areas in need, but that will also have limited impact. If the trend continues beyond this level, we will definitely be in a catastrophic situation.”
Over 4 million new cases per month
So far in April, cases have risen significantly – India reported more than 4 million cases on Friday and at least 24,452 people have died. Media reports suggest that the real death toll could potentially be higher.
The high number of infections has increased the pressure on India’s medical infrastructure. Overworked hospitals reject seriously ill patients due to a lack of beds. A severe lack of oxygen supply, due in part to an uneven distribution between states, has resulted in the deaths of many Covid-19 patients. The government has since diverted industrial oxygen supplies for medical purposes.
Medical workers in protective equipment (PPE) stand on alert in front of the Covid-19 station at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital on April 22, 2021 in New Delhi, India.
Sonu Mehta | Hindustan Times | Getty Images
Jayalal said India needs more medical workers as the frontline doctors are “stretched out” and mentally drained. He explained that medical professionals have asked the government to expedite processes that would allow junior doctors and medical students to participate in treating Covid patients.
“We are currently in need of intense war-making activity by the government and health professionals,” he added.
India’s vaccination campaign – one of the largest in the world – is also facing supply problems. The country has administered more than 135 million doses and recently the government approved grants for local vaccine manufacturers to increase production capacity.